Book Title:
Blood Water Paint
Book Author:
Joy McCullough
Page Count:
Publishing Date:
March 6th, 2018
Dutton Books for Young Readers
Date Read:
October 25th, 2019
Kindle Edition


A debut novel based on the true story of the iconic painter, Artemisia Gentileschi.

Her mother died when she was twelve, and suddenly Artemisia Gentileschi had a stark choice: a life as a nun in a convent or a life grinding pigment for her father's paint.

She chose paint.

By the time she was seventeen, Artemisia did more than grind pigment. She was one of Rome's most talented painters, even if no one knew her name. But Rome in 1610 was a city where men took what they wanted from women, and in the aftermath of rape Artemisia faced another terrible choice: a life of silence or a life of truth, no matter the cost.

He will not consume

my every thought.

I am a painter.

I will paint.

I will show you

what a woman can do.

My Review

Blood Water Paint was a lot different from what I was expecting it to be. I’m not sure exactly what I was expecting, but it was just…not exactly this. This was so much better than I thought it was going to be.

For some reason, I didn’t know there was going to be a whole historical aspect behind this book when I started reading it. I guess when I first read the synopsis, like ages before I even read the book, I realized it, but by the time I finally had the chance to actually read this, I had forgotten.

Blood Water Paint is a novel that is based on the famous artist Artemisia Gentileschi. I’m not really a follower of art or artists, so I guess to be honest I didn’t know much about her before I started reading this book. But knowing that this book is based on actual events that happened in her life really makes this book stand out even more. This is the kind of book that, after reading, I did a lot of research on the main character, Artemisia Gentileschi. I wanted to learn more about her and her story, so I could really paint my own picture of the character after reading.

No matter how many layers of paint pile on, I will always be the sketch beneath. Useful, even crucial, but never what’s admired by the world.

Artemisia Gentileschi is an artist – but not a well known one. At least, not yet. After her mother died, she has been working with her father, creating pigments, oils, and even working on painting sketches he has created in order to fetch a higher selling price. Her father often reminded her that if she did not want to make herself useful, she would be sent to spend her life as a nun, instead. Because she did not want that life for herself, she did what she had to to help her father. While it isn’t ideal for her, before her mother died she had told her stories and taught her to be strong, so Artemisia continued on.

“She has to ask herself—and women have asked themselves this question for centuries—would she rather be suffocated slowly for the rest of her life, or die quickly trying to accomplish something?

Since the year is 1610 in Rome, women aren’t exactly well known as artists, so of course, Artemisia’s name isn’t going to be put on any of her father’s paintings. Hardly anyone knew the truth about her. And while she was an amazing painter, she did struggle with a few things, such as perception. Because of this, her father had a young man and famous painter, Agostino Tassi, to give her lessons to help improve her painting.

At first, Artemisia is smitten with Agostino Tassi – she loves spending time with him, laughing with him, and talking about art. When he tells her that he would love to take her away from all of this and share his studio with her, she assumes he means he wants to marry her – until he tells her otherwise. He just wants her to be his model. Heartbroken, Artemisia wants nothing more to do with him.

His anger, however, at being denied something he wants, does not let up. In a fit of rage after being rejected, Agostino Tassi rapes Artemisia. No one comes to help her when she screams. It breaks her.

She keeps the truth inside.

But she can’t do that forever.

“‘Women who speak truth. And listen to me, love. When a woman risks her place, her very life to speak a truth the world despises? Believe her. Always.'”

So she does what she can – she makes a decision regarding the events that can change the world around her – not only Agostino Tassi’s life, but her own life, as well. But whether or not anyone believes her is another story.

Blood Water Paint does an amazing job of telling Artemisia’s story and how the events in her young years shaped her as not only a person, but an artist. Reading her harrowing tale of rape and the aftermath that occurs, including how difficult it was to get someone to believe her, was heartbreaking.

Because sometimes it doesn’t turn out the way you thought it would. Sometimes what you imagine in your head isn’t what comes out of the paintbrush.

Since this novel was told both verse and traditional story format, it didn’t take me long to read at all – I finished it in less than two days. It was the kind of book that I honestly did not want to put down because I was so engrossed in the story from the beginning. I find that while I don’t always love novels written in verse, I think the author did a fantastic job with this one, and I really thought it was deep and impactful.

This book was so beautifully written. I loved the parts that were stories – stories that Artemisia held dear to her heart, stories that her mother shared with her at a young age. Blood Water Paint was a quick read, but it had so much oompf behind it and I know I’ll keep it with me for a long time now that I’ve finished reading it.

4 stars
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